Archive for the 'Teacher Education' Category

Home Safe and Sound… But Changed

use 3The students from our first-ever, COED-led study abroad trip to Peru have returned! After a month in Peru, all seven students have written extensively on their experiences as part of the course. However, you’ll find that their adventures outside of the classroom were just as educational.

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Read on to learn more about Claire, Addy, Sara, Amy, Liz, Amy, and Carrie have learned in their own words!

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The Last Day of School

1000w_q95By Stephanie Nicoletti

On Friday there was a certain buzz going around the school, the kids came in with happy faces and even teachers were grinning ear to ear; it was the last day of school. During our closing circle on the last day I told my students that I enjoyed every minute with them and absolutely loved watching them grow over the school year.

Each year I always get sad during our last closing circle, your students become a part of you after spending a year together. This year I even had a little one who had tears streaming from his face when the bell rang, he was so upset he did not want to leave the classroom. This made me sad of course, but it also made me realize that all of the work teachers do over the summer to prepare for the following school year does not go unnoticed.

I was making a list this morning of all of the things I wanted to accomplish this summer before the school year starts. The list is long and daunting, but then I remember the tears that were in my classroom on the last day and remind myself that everything teachers do, no matter how daunting it may seem, is always for the students. While this summer will be fun, relaxing and refreshing for students and teachers alike, do not forget to remember your students who are itching to come back to school!

Teach For America: Semester Wrap-Up

As the academic year closes, students in the College of Education’s Masters Degree programs are wrapping up extensive research and consultant projects — read on to learn more about their work!

Enrolled in the College of Education and serving as Teach For America-Milwaukee corps members for two years, these graduate students in Dr. Patricia Ellis’ Analysis of Teaching Course are no strangers to the rigors of academic life both on Marquette University’s campus and in their classrooms.

We asked Tyra Hildebrand, Assistant Director of the College of Education’s TFA partnership, and Dr. Ellis to weigh in on the students’ final projects for this course.

As students put theory into practice within their classrooms, they are able to highlight how social justice, cultural responsiveness, rigor, differentiation, and inquiry not only increase student achievement but also develop their students’ soft skills.

How did this particular assignment come about?

Tyra Hildebrand (TH): “This unit plan assignment has been a regular part of the Analysis of Teaching course at MU. However, four years ago, Dr. Whipp and I made some important modifications to the assignment, in order to ensure our in-service teachers created a culturally relevant, student based, inquiry curriculum project. A book that was used in multiple classes, Pedagogy of Confidence by Yvette Jackson, identifies seven High Operational Practices, which was an additional framework for the project:

· Identifying and Activating Student Strengths

· Building Relationships

· Eliciting High Intellectual Performance

· Providing Enrichment

· Integrating Prerequisites for Academic Learning

· Situating Learning in the Lives of Students

· Amplifying Student Voice

The teachers also had to incorporate the Inquiry Learning Model (Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate and Evaluate) into their Unit Plan.”

Jake Burkard, Chemistry/Math Teacher, Bay View High School, “Heat of Combustion: Magnesium”

What are your goals for the students?

TH: “One of the goals for this project is for our in-service teachers to realize they can successfully plan and facilitate a real-world investigation with their students. This required them to move into highly constructivist teaching methods, which can be unsettling at first. The teachers also noted how truly engaged their students were in this project, which will hopefully carry on in further curriculum planning. Additionally, they recognized how cross-curricular their projects were, and hopefully that will result in reaching out to their teaching colleagues for planning future projects.”

Dr. Patricia Ellis (PE): “Inquiry-based learning brings a level of energy, inquisitiveness, rigor, and excitement into the classroom that makes learning meaningful and relevant for the teacher and their students. The learner-centered curriculum project allows the TFA students to facilitate learning in a manner that supports and nurtures the academic and social-emotional development of the whole child.

Engagement in this project encourages the TFA students to grow professionally and personally as they broaden and deepen their skills, talents, and gifts as well as the skills, talents, and gifts of the students in their classrooms.

As the TFA students discuss the impact of the project on their students, they frequently speak to how they see their classroom attendance increase, students becoming more actively engaged in learning, and students taking great pride in their accomplishments. They also express how this project facilitates interdisciplinary collaboration with colleagues and allows them to explore potential partnerships with community organizations.

The process and completion of this project teaches students how intentional planning, organization, persistence, flexibility, creativity, trust, diligence, belief, resiliency, determination, and reflection in addition to content knowledge are powerful skills and dispositions for classroom teachers to possess and practice on a daily basis.”

Allison Gleiss and her student, Math Teacher, Carmen Northwest High School, “Loans and Logarithms: A Car Buying Guide”

What are the benefits of the presentation?

PE: “Seeing the amazing displays of their students’ work along with hearing the passion in their voices as they present their learner-centered curriculum projects clearly demonstrates how engagement in this project helps to change and transform the TFA students’ instructional practices and levels of student engagement.

As students put theory into practice within their classrooms, they are able to highlight how social justice, cultural responsiveness, rigor, differentiation, and inquiry not only increase student achievement but also develop their students’ soft skills.”

Too often, teachers are isolated in their own classroom, but this project allowed the teachers to showcase the student learning.

TH: “Having the opportunity to publicly share the findings of their project is highly rewarding. Each year, we see how proud the teachers are of what their middle and high school students accomplished. We have seen over the years in this project, that the K-12 students always go above and beyond their teachers’ expectations. The teachers also have the opportunity to see what projects their peers facilitated, which is enlightening.”

Teddy Amdur, Physics/Math Teacher, Bay View High School, “Shark Tank: Exploring the Intersection of Entrepreneurship & Systems of Inequalities”

What are the benefits of the feedback?

PE: “Feedback from peers, supervisors, coaches, professional educators, and other professors allows the students to reflect on and enhance their professional practice in order to maximize student achievement and engagement. The feedback also serves to motivate, encourage, nurture, and inspire students to face challenges with courage and to autograph their work in the classroom with excellence.”

Annie Teigen, HOPE High School, “Case File Chemistry”

TH: “Our audience members and fellow teachers provided a great deal of constructive feedback for the presenter to contemplate if they were to embark on this project again. This cohort of teachers regularly learns from one another and they push each other to become better for their students. Too often, teachers are isolated in their own classroom, but this project allowed the teachers to showcase the student learning.”

Want to learn more about TFA and Marquette University’s College of Education’s graduate programs? Visit us online!

Wearing My Team Jersey: It’s the People, Not the Program

football-1206741_960_720By Peggy Wuenstel

There is a constant drive in education to find the magic bullet, the secret recipe, the cutting edge approach that will magically turn a failing school into a flourishing one. Just like the late night commercials that advertise miracle weight loss solutions, I believe that if there were a magic formula for either, we would all be using them. What I have also come to understand is that it is the people, not the programs that make schools work. I have been blessed to work in one of those places where the team truly comes together. The team jersey I wear as a Washington Golden Eagle is the next of those things that I know I’ve got before they’re gone. People often ask me: “What makes your school different?” After all these years it has become evident to me. It is the teaching team with which I suit up for the work of guiding children every day.

There are two other elementary schools in my district. One is much smaller, with a much more homogeneous student population and laudable student performance measures. The other is very similar to my place of employment, with similar enrollment, demographics, challenges, and surrounding community. Where we differ most is in the longevity of the “team” in place and in the consistency of the instructional approaches in play in the two schools. In an effort to raise student performance measures, the dedicated staff of that building has gone through many incarnations, including an inquiry-based charter, and a new foray into a reading program that is much more structured than the one in use in my school. I wish them well in their quest to improve student learning, but am grateful that our building focus has remained on the people vs. the implementation of programs. We’ve had little staff turnover in my 15 years here, and many of our new “draft choices” have been transfers from within the district. These are teachers with which we had already established working relationships.

I work with educators who have already made the mindset shift to the absolute necessity of individualizing instruction. What happens when a child fails to learn here is not seen as a lack within the child, but within the range of approaches that we have attempted thus far. Resource and child assistance teams are not just the doorway to referral services (guidance, tutoring, reading or math interventions, or special education) but a way to problem-solve and enhance universal classroom instruction. Lack of benchmark attainment does not mean NOT, it simply means NOT YET. Our building goals have consistently targeted our highest need populations through good instruction and appropriate small group interventions. When teachers are committed to assisting children with performance gaps, instruction improves for all students because it is systematic, purposeful, and directly tied to assessment.

The environment is highly inclusive at Washington Elementary. Students with challenges (English Language Learners, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorders, children who have experienced childhood trauma) are fully integrated into classrooms. The techniques and supports in place to aid these students in meeting grade level expectations improve classroom climate and create access to learning for all. We have moved past the point of accommodating differences to valuing and celebrating the diversity that our students bring to their classes.

We have had the luxury of administration at the Board of Education, superintendent, and principal levels that understands that this willingness to take responsibility for enhanced classroom learning requires quality professional development along with the time and support to implement it effectively. It also necessitates the planning for assessment of its effectiveness, and the need for tweaks, additions, and deletions over time, and modifications when incorporated by different staff members. If we want custom-fit garments, we have to be willing to pay the tailor or the seamstress.

Another key piece is the continual improvement mindset we have adopted for ourselves and others. Getting better is what the process of education is all about, and we must be models of that for our students. Where we often differ is in how best to document that growth and forward movement. How delightful it is when it is evident in the accomplishments of our students and the pride of the community we serve!

My fellow teachers have also demonstrated their willingness to choose strategies for their efficacy for students and alignment with classroom practice, district vision and standards rather than for convenience or ease of implementation. The art of teaching still lies within our ability to make those good instructional decisions. The best way to know that a program is not for me is when the sales rep tells me, “It’s so easy to use that you don’t even have to think about it.” I always used to say that when I got to that point it would be time to retire. I’m delighted to say that I’m ready to retire and still actively thinking about what I present to students each day.

My principal is also our district’s head football coach, and sometimes he can overdo the sports references. We tend to prefer the family metaphor to the team moniker. It’s more like wearing the t-shirt at the family reunion than suiting up for the big game. It’s not as much about the competition and winning, or even about getting better, harder, faster or stronger. It’s about being a contributing member of the team, and knowing your role in the play we’ve called for the day. I’ve earned my team jersey. I wear it with pride, and I’m definitely packing it for the next leg of my journey.

 

 

Riding in My Big Yellow Taxi

old_checker_cabBy Peggy Wuenstel

Joni Mitchell’s iconic song Big Yellow Taxi holds special meaning for me, especially this year. In addition to being that rarity, a song that has an excellent remake courtesy Counting Crows, it is a reminder to take stock of all those things we value. Contrary to the famous line, I do know what I’ve got before it’s gone. The beauty of planning ahead for retirement, promotion, or a job change is that the “going” is far enough away that you can reflect on what you have. This is it, the last 189.5 days of my full-time teaching life. (And 40 of them are already behind me at this posting.) It is the countdown of “last experiences,” back-to-school open house, Christmas program, report cards, snow day, etc. The vast majority of those things are not the ones I will happy to see go, but the things I am so grateful to have been a part of.

In this last year of blogging for the Marquette Educator, something else I will deeply miss, I plan to visit all of those treasures I know I have today. Some I’ll leave behind. Some I’ll pass on to others. Some I will never be able to part with and some are so much a part of me that I wouldn’t be able to extricate them if I tried.  My teaching team, the memories I will take with me as I leave the classroom, the daily positivity that surrounds a successful elementary school all made the list. I have made a promise to myself not to let remembering the past or planning for the future diminish my pleasure or purpose in completing this last year.

I’ve already begun tossing the old, the dated worksheets, the books that don’t inspire, the programs and materials that do not align with the research or contribute to best practices. This process is actually long overdue. In this digital age we teach differently than we have in the past, keeping things in computer files rather than hard copy. This winnowing requires examining the reasons why we are holding on to our” treasures.” Someone put in a lot of time and effort to make these materials. We had such fun when we taught this unit. We have always done it this way; it’s tradition.

I am also mindful and grateful that I have the opportunity to retire. Many of my students’ families may never have that opportunity.  Company loyalty, hiring and firing practices, maximizing profits and shareholder dividends all limit an employee’s options in remaining in an organization or career. Relocation for the job of a spouse, need to return to care for an ailing or aging parent or support a child for whom economic opportunity has not yet arrived also limit our chances for stability and advancement.

Longevity at a job is not always considered a plus on a résumé. My job has allowed me the freedom to grow, change settings, and feel that I make a difference in the same place and with the same extraordinary team (more about that next month). Many people in our society have no such opportunities. Isn’t this the primary role of education: creating in our students the set of skills and attitudes that prepare them for a successful future. That has been harder to envision in recent years. Even in these times when our teacher benefits and compensation are both reduced and uncertain, I am grateful that my situation allows for retirement.

I am working under a new superintendent this year, part of  the revolving door status quo in Wisconsin schools as school leaders relocate every few years as their jobs are less stable or satisfying than in my first years in education. These conditions make educators uncertain of district commitment to teacher benefits and alter labor relations. This will be the 5th administrator I have worked under in my 15-year tenure in my district.

I have remained in Whitewater twice as long as anywhere else  I have worked in my 34-year career because this district allowed me the opportunity for continual growth and reinvention. I worked part-time in between full-time bookends at the beginning and end of my career here. I explored opportunities with UW-Whitewater,Wisconsin’s DPI, and the Whitewater community. I had many chances and myriad encouragements to lead at the program, school, district, and state level. I always had the personal sense of moving forward, while many aspects of education (funding, public support, legislative decisions) seemed to be moving backward.

On my bulletin board (another future post) there is a reminder: “If you don’t like the direction of the wind, you can always adjust the sails.” I have been distressed about many of the directions that education has taken in Wisconsin in recent years, and it’s time to let someone else take the tack so that I can sail in calmer waters, enjoy the scenery, and slow the pace. Let the adventure begin, my big yellow taxi is waiting at the dock.

 

Get Involved: From Milwaukee to Cape Town

By Charlotte Adnams

Something that I really appreciate about Marquette’s College of Education is the immediate immersion into the elementary, middle, or high school settings. Throughout these couple years, I have been able to work with students of different age groups, diverse needs, and school districts across Milwaukee. Because of these experiences of working with different students, it has encouraged me to become more involved and exploring of other volunteer opportunities where I can work with students.

1 There are so many groups across Marquette’s campus that focus on volunteering and mentor programs. Whether it be working on math with high school students during the week, or doing arts and crafts with young 1st and 2nd graders, there are many opportunities to get learn more from the students across Milwaukee’s schools. To find a program or organization that best suits you, the Marquette Involvement page is helpful or check the bulletins with bright, numerous postings throughout Schroeder Complex.

2 Start your own group! Each Friday at the beginning of my college career was spent among dozens of 1st-4th grade students at an inner city elementary school. At the after school program I mentored various young students while we completed an art activity. All of this was possible because a group of passionate Marquette students formed the group just a few years before. Grab a few other friends and start something you think can make a difference (hint: you can do something great and you will make a difference!).

3 Embark on an opportunity that takes you somewhere new, boosting your skills and understanding of the importance of educational diversity. One opportunity is the Marquette Action Program (M.A.P.) where Marquette students venture across the country during Spring Break learning and acting upon justice issues, one of the many including education.

Another is a program that I came across at the end of my sophomore year from a COED newsletter. One Heart Source (OHS) has “designed and operated volunteer programs for university students who seek to broaden their context of humanity and the world through results-oriented service learning.” The experience I had with One Heart Source in Cape Town, South Africa was completely unique, empowering, and honestly life changing. I was able to mentor a student individually and in small groups throughout the time that I was there, and then engage in dialogue with fellow OHS members and leaders. I highly encourage this experience, and taking a peak around their website).

Photo from One Heart Source

Expanding our education opportunities can be so beneficial and can broaden our experience diversities, so get out there and explore the many options across Milwaukee (and the world)!

I Applied to TFA…and Got Rejected

Teach-For-America-Logo.pngBy Amanda Szramiak – I know what you’re thinking. I’m writing for the Marquette University Educator Blog, and I applied for Teach for America. I’m a disgrace. A teacher failure. Before you make your judgments, let me explain my thought process.

I too, struggle with Teach for America as an organization. A program that allows anyone to be the teacher in a classroom? I don’t think so. I’ve spent the past five years preparing to be an effective educator. My coursework coupled with over two hundred hours in an actual classroom have prepared me to successfully teach…or so I thought.

During my inquiry in contemporary issues course last semester, we had to research a topic in education and write an op-ed about our opinion of the topic. I decided I would research Teach for America because I felt so passionately about it being an insult to teachers. I thought this would be an easy topic to research and discuss because I knew I was against it. Well, my research and a few conversations with a fellow MU education student made me rethink my adamant opinions.

A dear friend and colleague of mine (who attends Marquette and is currently student teaching) applied and received a Teach for America position last semester. We were having a conversation about our research topics, and I told her all about my woes with Teach for America. Ironically, she told me she just accepted a position with them. Embarrassed of voicing my opinions thinking hers, as a fellow educator, would be the same, I asked her why she decided to join TFA when she could more than likely get any job teaching without the organization. She explained the struggles she faced when applying for TFA, which resembled mine. We discussed her TFA plans, and once I heard them, I knew it was going to be hard to be so against the program like I once was.

Like all research, you learn a lot. Once my research was done and I had to write my op-ed about the program, I was stuck. While I don’t agree with the fact that a TFA teacher receives six weeks of training, there were some aspects that were appealing to me. I could teach full time while simultaneously getting my master’s degree. Their core values of closing the achievement gap by providing educational equality completely align with my opinions on education. Not all those applying to TFA have the background I do, so I really would “Be the Difference” in the program. I decided the pros in applying outweighed the cons so I started my application.

I became so immensely excited about all the things TFA could bring to me. I know I want to teach in an urban setting, but I want to get out of the Midwest. With TFA, that could easily happen. TFA and their relationships with master programs could help me narrow down what I want to specialize in. When you apply for something, you become invested in it, and I became excited about being a Teach for America teacher.

Once the application part was over, I was invited to a phone interview. It seemed to go well despite the awkward interruptions of being on the phone and not seeing the other person. I had to wait a week to see if I was invited to a final interview, which I unfortunately was not.

Getting an email saying that I was not cut out to be a TFA teacher was definitely hard to swallow. I began to question myself not only as an applicant but also as a teacher. Even though I used to be strongly against TFA as an educator, it was difficult to accept the fact that I wouldn’t be one. I eventually realized the competiveness of the program, and I decided to not let it affect my ability to teach. I still want to be a teacher and provide excellent education for all, and my rejection from TFA only strengthened my desire to do so.


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